Friday, October 30, 2009

Pricing tricks?

I was doing my daily time-wasting browsing around the internet when I came across MadWine - as you can guess, an online wine store. There are hundreds of them out there, so the finding itself wasn't that impressive. What actually impressed me is that I decided to click on their Montly Specials and then decided to get everything from $20-$40 and what do I see? US$ 19.99-priced wines! Finally a company that does not use those x.99 price tricks to make it feel like you are buying something cheaper than it actually is. Kudos for MadWine!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

5 years at Amazon, 5 years in Seattle

Time flies... And here we are, 5 years later looking back and trying to decide if it was all worth it. 5 years in a tech company doing software development is a long time. Especially if I add the fact that pretty much I never switched teams (although the team's main focus and even all system it maintains were eventually switched around from under us a couple of times), I become a very unlikely person. It basically puts me in the class of those "old grumpy men" that just stay around to criticize people and tell them stories of things that happened so long ago that it's not really relevant any more.

Every time that I go through those anniversaries, it's good to consider whether it's been worth it. And I can't really say it hasn't. I have built a lot of things and a few cool things. I still don't think I have reached my limit, but from time to time I start wondering if I'm close to it. Especially in the last couple of months that I have been building something that is very likely much more complicated than I had initially thought. The result of it is that it was released already a couple of times and when it starts getting used some major bugs start cropping up that force me to step back and review some of the assumptions that I had made before. After the third time that this happened I was really worried about my ability to actually ever get it right. More than this, my ability to get it right to a level that other people could get it right too (which has been proving to be even more complicated - when other people touch the code it seems to break it more than fix it - thank you extensive test suites that keep things mostly working). But it's so cool... At least I think it's cool!

Anyway, back to abstract thought: Amazon is a fun place to work. The distributed and isolated nature of the systems and organizations sometimes can look very unproductive (lots of people doing similar things all the time), but it fosters a very interesting split:

1) Teams that have strong people with good vision of what they want to do can get their things done
2) Teams that fall behind and become reactive to things that break can just find themselves digging bigger holes and never getting out of it. Some of them don't even realize it.

Fortunately I've always been working in teams that had more of #1 than #2. I have worked with #2 teams and having the knowledge that they exist out there makes me happy to keep myself put and keep moving forward towards what this "vision" is. I could talk about the vision here in this blog, but it's nothing very exciting to external users of the Amazon website, so I'll keep it for myself.

Enough about work, let's talk about Seattle... Seattle is a very interesting city. It's big enough to allow for some culture and activity buzz, but not that big that you are caught on the stress of too many things to do, and higher living costs. Having moved here from Oklahoma, I can't say there is anything that I really miss (maybe being able to find parking anywhere I go). And comparing to Sao Paulo, it's actually even more complicated to compare. What I miss about Sao Paulo is not the city, but the people. And I was never very social - but you don't have to be very social to have lots of friends and lots of options of things to do. In Seattle I have some good friends, but people are much more "reserved". Maybe it's just that I'm surrounded by not-so-social people.

Anyway, all in all, it has been a great experience. I like where I am and I am comfortable with where I'm heading right now. Next year is wedding year, so that will go by probably without many other things going on. Then, if I'm given the opportunity, I'll re-evaluate and see where I should be heading.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Autism in more than 1% of the children population in the US?

The number that this article from PsychCentral reports is quite scary. And the article probably could have been written in a more positive way: it talks nothing about what the root causes are and how to prevent it. It's only talking about the fact that it needs to be addressed by health care to take care of those kids and analyzed as for the impact that this will have in the economy when those children arrive at the workforce.

So I went out looking for articles talking about the possible sources for autism spectrum disorder. I'm not a medical doctor, so I'm certainly not the best person to rate these articles, but I found one that was quite complete-looking:

Autism Spectrum Disorders from The Environmental Illness Resource

There are lots of references out there, and many from not-so-impartial sources, like nutrition websites (that sell food supplements) that claim that it's because people don't do a complete detox before having kids; or genetics labs that keep pounding on the evidence of a genetic link to chance of developing autism (in many ways, everything is genetic, but genetics can't explain a 10-fold increase in number of autistic kids in a period of less than 10 years!); or some immunology magazines that keep repeating that there is no proof that there is a connection between autism and vaccination (there was a huge controversy about that some years ago because of a research that suggested that there was a connection).

In other words, people still don't know. It's probably somehow related to the immune system, but if it's a cause or just a correlation is hard to tell. Again, I'm still not sure how something like this could cause such a huge spike in the number of cases. But who am I to know those things?

Monday, October 05, 2009

There are bad spam message subjects...

Lately for some reason my almost spam-free Yahoo email was found by some "Canadian Pharmacy" mass mailer. They are all quite "harmless" and easy to identify, so I haven't been too bothered about them (except for feeling puzzled by the fact that they found my email address). Today, though, I receive an email with this subject:

"Learn where you will DIE!"

For the Canadian Pharmacy... Why?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The "Winter" Olympics - how sad is the aftermath

So Rio de Janeiro won the Olympic nomination for 2016, how exciting! I hope the investments that will be generated to prepare for the event (two years after the World Cup, so a lot of investments being done) will be put in good use and not just mostly diverted to the pockets of few.

But I'm not here to talk about Rio, I'm here to say how appalled I am with the aftermath of Chicago losing the nomination. News agencies and blogs are "on fire" blaming it all on Obama, which is a very sad reaction. There are so many that I'm not even sure how to summarize their views, so I'll just paste some links (some of them are talking about other people criticizing):

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

And then a few that blame Bush:

[1] [2]

The reality is much more complicated than those "specialized political reporters" can relate to, and that's what makes all this whole process ridiculous. Anyway, I guess I'm now one of those people complaining!

PS: I tried to add Snap shots on this blog just so that you could just roll over those links and have an idea what they are about without clicking on them. The problem is that this solution is a little intrusive, so I'm not sure how long I'll keep it around.